Unlike some other states, Minnesota does not allow vehicle owners to create a transfer-on-death registration for their vehicles, which automatically passes a vehicle to a new owner when the original owner dies. However, that does not mean that vehicles cannot be transferred to a new owner at all. Instead, vehicles may have to go through a probate process or, depending on the circumstances, they can pass in other ways.
Some vehicle owners place their vehicles into a revocable trust, also called a living trust or family trust, during their lifetimes to make distribution of their estates simpler for their families after they die. For a vehicle to transfer under the terms of a trust, it must be titled in the name of the trust and the name of the trust’s owner. When the owner dies, the new trustee, or manager, of the trust can transfer the vehicle to the new owner by submitting the title, a copy of the trust document and evidence of the former owner’s death to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
When more than one person owns a vehicle, it may transfer to the other owner when one dies. This only works if the vehicle’s title lists both names as owners and joins the owners’ names with “or.” This wording establishes a right of survivorship between co-owners, giving either the right to inherit the other co-owner’s share when he dies. To transfer the title, the surviving co-owner must provide evidence of the other co-owner’s death and the vehicle’s title along with paying appropriate fees.
If a decedent’s assets are valued at more than $50,000, his estate will likely have to go through a probate process in a Minnesota court. Generally, vehicles that do not pass to a new owner by joint ownership or under a trust are included in the decedent’s probate assets and must go through the probate process before being distributed. Probate requires an estate administrator to file paperwork with the court, pay the deceased’s debts and distribute the remaining assets to the deceased’s beneficiaries. To change the vehicle’s ownership, the executor can take control of the vehicle by submitting the vehicle title, appropriate fees and proof of the estate’s probate administration to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
Estates valued under $50,000 typically do not have to go through a probate process, and vehicles in these estates can be transferred by using an affidavit, or sworn statement. To transfer vehicles with an affidavit, Minnesota requires evidence of the deceased owner’s death, a vehicle title and payment of appropriate fees along with the affidavit itself. Surviving spouses who are entitled to inherit a deceased spouse’s vehicle can complete an Affidavit of Surviving Spouse while other heirs can complete an Affidavit of No-Probate. Both forms are provided by the state’s Driver and Vehicle Services and must be notarized or witnessed. When the deceased dies without any legal heirs, the vehicle can be transferred by an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property, but the state does not provide this form.